Okey Dokey behind on taxes; County begins foreclosure proceedings as bill approaches $10,000

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — After repeated attempts for several years to collect delinquent taxes, Rowan County has started foreclosure action against the co-owner of the Okey Dokey & Co. General Store, an official said.
The downtown building at 126 E. Innes St., which is open for business, appears on the foreclosure sale list on the county’s website.
Foreclosing against co-owner Bette Pollock is a last resort, said Tonya Parnell, assistant tax collector.
“The last thing we want to do is own property,” Parnell said.
Pollock said she has been communicating with the tax office and has an agreement with the county. She said she will have the taxes paid by Dec. 31 “if all goes well.”
The county filed the foreclosure action Sept. 28, giving Pollock 90 days to pay the taxes and stop the foreclosure.
“We have tried to work with them, and we are willing to work with them,” Parnell said.
Pollock owes taxes from 2009, 2010 and 2011 totaling $9,600, which would be the starting bid if the property goes to a foreclosure sale. The building has a tax value of $221,944.
The county rarely forecloses on an occupied building, much less one containing an active business. Most properties on the county’s foreclosure list are vacant houses and lots.
Okey Dokey accrued $19,000 in fines from the city of Salisbury in May for having too many signs and not removing them. The city reduced the fine to $150 after Pollock’s business partner, Stan Williamson, removed 20 hand-painted signs from the facade.
Code Services Manager Chris Branham was out of town, but based on information available Friday afternoon from the city, it appeared Okey Dokey had not paid the fine.
Williamson was supposed to take care of it, Pollock said. He was out of town and not available for comment, she said.
Pollock bought the Okey Dokey building in 2003. In 2009, the county began legal action against her for unpaid taxes.
By 2010, Williamson had paid $4,200 toward the 2007 and 2008 taxes, enough money to stop the legal proceedings, Parnell said.
Then, despite a payment plan, the county received no payment for 2009 and 2010 taxes, she said. In January, Williamson paid $1,000 toward the 2009 taxes.
There has been no payment since, Parnell said.
Williamson went to the tax office earlier this week and told Parnell he would pay the taxes next week, she said.
Okey Dokey has contributed to Salisbury and the downtown, Pollock said.
“We have a history of maintaining a Salisbury landmark that’s been here 105 years,” she said. “And we’ve done our best to keep Salisbury going.”
The county files about seven foreclosure actions per month and takes roughly five properties per month to sale, Parnell said. Of those, between two and three are sold, she said.
Rowan County wants to avoid foreclosures, Parnell said, and she encouraged anyone with delinquent taxes to contact her and set up a payment plan. Hundreds of property owners make installments, she said.
“If you’re in the same situation, come in and make payments,” she said. “We will work with you.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.